From the beginning, John Sutherland recognized that his
literary gifts lay in criticism rather than in poetry. His
independence from the academy and his largely autodidactic training
gave him a unique perspective as a critic of Canadian literature.
What these letters document, beyond a purely personal struggle, is
a period of great importance in the development of Canadian
poetry (19421956), and it is above all the nuts and bolts of that
development that they bring into keen relief: the economics of
publishing books and literary magazines in the days before The
Canada Council, and the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of
trying wholly to live a life in literature at that time.